|waltzing away the frugal way|
Ever since I was a child, I have been washing dishes by hand. My mom never had a dishwasher growing up (unless you count herself), and therefore she and my dad never bought a dishwasher. I have lived in two apartments that had dishwashers and my house has a dishwasher. Yet I don't use them. (Ok, I utilize them for storing clean dishes while they dry, but I don't run them.) My friends think that I am royally crazy. They don't understand why, if I owned such a modern miracle of hassle-saving, I wouldn't use it.
Well, for starters, none of the dishwashers I have ever been in "posession" of have been good. Old apartments, old dishwashers. Old home, old dishwasher. They say nowadays that newer dishwashers are extremely capable of getting your dishes clean but I have never run across one. (I think my in-law's dishwasher works pretty well, though, so I suppose they could exist out there somewhere, in theory.) In order for my dishes to get clean, I would either have to rinse them first or run the dishwasher twice. Why is that? Before, when I used to buy more pre-made things and have more waste and less dishes, I wouldn't have enough dirty ones to run the dishwasher before all the food dried on, making it impossible to be cleaned by the old, crappy dishwasher. So I'd have to pre-rinse them to throw them in the dishwasher, or run the dishwasher twice. Now is a different story. Now I could run the dishwasher every day and STILL have dishes to wash by hand.
So why don't I use my dishwasher now? Unfortunately, the dishwasher we have now is still crappy, so I'm assuming that I'd have to rinse the dishes still. I could buy a new, nicer one, but that wouldn't be very frugal, now, would it? And even if I didn't have to rinse them, I did some math to figure out the cost difference from using the dishwasher and washing them by hand:
My dishwasher, according to its manual, uses about 5 gallons per load minimum. That's 150 gallons per month, assuming that I would run it every day. (And I could. Just wait and see.) Compare this to washing them by hand, which I can do with 1/2 gallon. (Don't believe me? Stay tuned.) That's 15 gallons a month of water used to wash by hand. Water costs a little less than a penny per gallon (about $0.008), making the score $1.20/month with the dishwasher; $0.12/month by hand.
Dishwasher detergent runs pretty high around here - about $4.19 for 22 loads. That equates to $5.71 per month in detergent. But I can wash all my dishes using only 1 tsp. of dish soap (two squirts from my little bottle). I can get dish soap at $2.39 for 30 oz, making my total expenditure $0.40.
To run my dishwaser once a day would be 2.88 kWh, according to its manual. At $0.06 per kWh, that's $5.18 per month. The total energy I use to wash dishes by hand? None. I wash my dishes in cold water because - let's face it - I wouldn't hand wash them in hot enough water to "sanitize" them, not to mention that since 99% of my dishes are not raw meat, sanitization is not necessary.
So what am I at?
But wait - there's more! DH's work offers an excellent bonus that they will give him as much purified water as he wants, provided he takes it home itself. So that $0.12 in water that I would spend washing them comes down to a whopping $0.00. That makes the savings $11.69. A month.
TOTAL SAVINGS OVER A YEAR: $140.28
You may be asking - don't all the studies show that people who wash dishes by hand use MORE water than a dishwasher does? Yes, that is what the studies say. Yet I did a little study of my own because, to be fair, I wasn't a participant in that study and therefore it does not accurately reflect my water usage.
This is how much water I used to wash all my dishes.
And this is how many dishes I washed. I don't know if you can tell, but the entire top rack is full, and the bottom rack is so full that I couldn't close it, plus the dishes in the drying rack on the counter. To be fair, this is about a day and a half's worth of dishes, but the point is still there - I actually DO go through enough dishes to run the dishwasher once a day.
In order to wash them, I scrape all the chunks off of the dishes that I can. I'm not super picky or anything, but I want to keep my dish water as clean as possible so that I can use it for as long as possible. I first fill my sink up about 1 cm from the bottom - just enough to have a little puddle - and add a squirt of soap, swishing my hands around in the water to create the suds. Then I wash whatever I have to wash - I don't do it in any order (though that might help), but I only wash about a sinkful at a time. After I wash them I sit them in the other sink to wait until rinsing. When that sink is full I pile them back into the first sink in order of largest on bottom, and smallest on top, with some exceptions - I put my silverware usually around the bottom and any small lids along with the silverware. Why? Because I really only have to rinse my first few dishes, and then I'm just using that water to rinse the dishes each layer I have. So I'll use a half a cup of water to rinse my first two dishes, but then that water collects in the third one. I rinse that dish with that water, then collect it in the next dish. And so on. If my last dish is a big bowl or something and there's enough clean water in it, I'll set it in the clean sink and use that to rinse the next sinkload. I simply pour that water, once I'm done rinsing with it, into the sink I'm washing in, so that I keep all the soap I need and dilute the dirtiniess. About halfway through the day I'll add another squirt of soap and swish with my hands to keep the suds coming. If I have leftover water from, say, boiling noodles or something, I'll add the warm water to the cold for a bit of a treat for my hands.
And there you have it! How do you wash your dishes? Do you have any comments or questions - perhaps a tip to do it even more frugally? Let me know - I'd love to hear them!